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23 Purdue
Grant Wahl
November 15, 1999
The talent-depleted Boilermakers hope to have better results from better chemistry
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November 15, 1999

23 Purdue

The talent-depleted Boilermakers hope to have better results from better chemistry

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STARTING LINEUP

POS.

HT.

CLASS

KEY STAT

SF

Mike Robinson

6'6"

Sr.

7.1 .pPg

PF

Brian Cardinal

6'8"

Sr.

11.4 ppg

C

GregMcQuay

6'7"

Sr.

10.5 ppg

SG

Jaraan Cornell

6'3"

Sr.

15.2 ppg

PG

Carson Cunningham

6'1"

Jr.

6.6 ppg

1998-99 record: 21-13 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 22

Returning Starter

In September coach Gene Keady hung a sign in his team's locker room: TEAMWORK MEANS MORE WE AND LESS ME. Cornball homily? Sure, but it fit. During last year's 7-9 Big 10 campaign, Keady's worst in 19 years at Purdue, the Boilermakers were beset by bickering. "Players gave up," says guard Jaraan Cornell. "I was like, Are you all playing basketball just to get girls? Because if you are, then you can be a pimp and do that.' "

Now with guard Gary McQuay and forward Cameron Stephens having transferred—moves Keady calls "addition by subtraction"—the Boilermakers are ready to build on last year's surprising run to the Sweet 16. Five seniors are back, including the sweet-shooting Cornell, whose 15.2 points a game led the team, and forward Brian Cardinal, whose nickname is Citizen Pain because of his propensity for giving and taking elbows. After Keady had questioned his players' commitment to off-season conditioning last year, Cornell and Cardinal convened the team at 6:30 a.m. four days a week this summer for three-mile runs followed by pickup games and weight training. "We enjoy being around each other, and we know each other's tendencies a lot better now," says Cardinal.

However, if Purdue is to contend for a Big 10 championship, it will need the return to form of Mike Robinson and Carson Cunningham. A slashing forward who averaged 15.3 points in the '98 NCAA tournament, Robinson averaged only 3.7 points against Big 10 opponents last season. Cunningham, a 1997 transfer from Oregon State where he played point guard and was runner-up to Mike Bibby for Pac-10 freshman of the year honors, never fully recovered from elbow surgery at the start of the season and had more turnovers than assists.

Though Keady is worried about his team's shooting (43.9% last year) and lack of size, he's encouraged by its improved attitude. Last month, he reveals, he went home happy from a practice for the first time in three years. Gene Keady smiling? Imagine that. "We've got some self-driven people on this team," he says. "Anytime we've had a senior-dominated roster, we've been pretty good."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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